Libraries & Labs – Roosevelt Square would benefit from both

Libraries and laboratories might make you think of people doing research and experimenting to find new ways to address old or new challenges. UIC has recently been in the news for its round two proposal for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, part of which includes a proposal to build a deck over the expressway interchange area. UIC was instrumental in making sure the Jayne Bryne Interchange redesign and reconstruction addressed community concerns, one of which was that it literally and figuratively – through key design elements – bridge the gulf the expressways create between the West Loop, downtown and our community. UIC’s Presidential Library proposal builds upon UIC’s recent work with our community.

Socioeconomic status often creates unnecessary, but incredibly complex, barriers between people; the barriers to success in life it creates for socioeconomically marginalized populations are even more complex. Connecting4Communities has been working with Smyth Elementary School Principal, Dr. Ron Whitmore, UIC’s new Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Alfred Tatum, CPS officials and our local elected city and state representatives on a UIC John M. Smyth IB World Lab School proposal. Alderman Solis wrote a letter to CPS CEO, Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett, supporting using Roosevelt/Racine TIF district funds to demolish the vacated – for safety reasons – Joyner facility on the Smyth property and State Senator Patricia Van Pelt’s office has researched the Illinois State and University of Illinois at Urbana university lab schools. You will be hearing more details about this effort in the near future.

Our community provides a microcosm of our nation’s socioeconomic challenges, some of which have expressed themselves recently in all their complexity in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City and elsewhere. 012th District Chicago Police Commander Melissa Staples has repeatedly said at meetings we have organized with CHA, City Hall and the Chicago Police to address violence in our community, that “We’re [the Chicago Police] not going to be able to just arrest our way out of these problems.” The redevelopment of the CHA’s ABLA Homes into a mixed-income, mixed-use community provides an unrealized, as of yet, opportunity to skillfully and more deliberately address the challenges our community faces. The efforts of Connecting4Communities to successfully advocate for the new Roosevelt Square master planning process and our public education efforts are designed to realize this important opportunity. We’re grateful for the incredible cooperation of Mayor Emanuel’s Office, UIC, CPS, Alderman Solis, and Senator Van Pelt.